ESL recruitment myths and misconceptions

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As a trainee or novice ESL teacher you are bound to be ‘bombarded’ with numerous so-called facts about ESL recruitment – just ignore them. For the interested reader, here are six common myths and misconceptions.

1. It is perfectly acceptable in EU countries for ESL recruiters to advertise for “native speaker(s) only”. It may surprise some ESL teachers, but this is actually illegal: Article 21 (Non-Discrimination) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights considers this as discrimination and prohibits it: EU Charter.  Additionally, advertisements which stipulate the requirement for a particular language as a “mother tongue” are also unacceptable.

2. ESL teacher recruiters (also known as teacher placement agencies – TPAs) will always try to hire the cheapest ESL teachers. It is not in the interest of the TPAs to always hire the cheapest teachers because if the teachers are not up to standard, the clients will be dissatisfied with the TPAs – and the TPAs will soon lose clients.

3. TPAs always send ESL teachers to the bad schools first before sending teachers to the good schools. The recruiter’s good name is built on developing a good ‘teacher-recruiter’ rapport: it is not in the interest of the recruiter to send ESL teachers to bad schools where the teachers themselves are treated badly as it concerns pay and conditions. In fact, if the schools are bad – the TPAs may end up being left unpaid for their services. It should not be forgotten that it is the ESL teacher who ultimately decides where to teach.

4. As soon as the TPA has found you a post, you are on your own. Once a TPA has found you a post, it also provides support throughout the duration of your teaching contract.

5. TPAs charge ESL teachers (exorbitant) fees for finding them ESL posts. TPAs charge their clients, the ESL schools; they don’t charge the teachers that they recruit. If you find yourself having to pay for the services of a TPA, look elsewhere.

6. You should never use a TPA because it’s always easier or better to contact the school instead. If you are applying to work in an overseas educational establishment, you may find that it will either ignore your application because it recruits through a TPA or it will direct you to its TPA. Alternatively, the school will only hire in-country ESL teachers. If it is a school that you can apply to directly from your country, you should make sure that it is a very well established school before committing yourself. If you can, always use a professional TPA: there are no fees, the school will be guaranteed, and you will have the TPA’s support while working at the school.

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